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Photo Essay by Sarah Ann Jump

Julio Rosales, 17, Jasper, Latino, Male, Questioning, Christian. "I am understanding."

Looking around the lunchroom at Jasper High School last spring, I was struck by the diversity among the students. Is this really the county that was reported as 95.1% white in the 2010 census?

According to the Pew Research Center, the post-Millennial generation is the most racially and ethnically diverse generation in U.S. history.

I set out to explore how Generation Z — today’s middle schoolers, high schoolers and young adults — view themselves and their identities. I found that Gen Zers in Dubois and surrounding counties are embracing what makes them unique.

“I think Gen Z people are more accepting,” 18-year-old Ashley Chevez said. “They’re more open to different identities, ideas and everything.” Ashley noted the “endless amount of possibilities” when it comes to race, sexual orientation and gender identity.

“It feels good to be part of that diversity,” Ashley said.

Ashley Chevez, 18, Jasper, Latinx, Nonbinary, Pansexual. "I am my own person."

Julio Rosales, 17, hopes that as his generation comes of age, he’ll see a “more open society where we can just tell our children that it’s OK to be who you want to be and we can focus on actual issues around the world, like world hunger and climate change.”

“We’re all human and, no matter what, we should all treat each other as such,” 18-year-old Becca Schitter said. “If you’re poor, if you’re rich, if you’re gay, if you’re straight, if you’re anything under the sun, we’re all just trying to get through our one life. Because it’s short and we all want it to be the best that we can possibly make it.”

Participants were photographed on instant film at community events throughout the summer and fall. They shared information about the many ways they identify through a questionnaire that included multiple choices, write-in responses and the option to not answer.

Abby Eckert, 17, Schnellville, White, Female, Straight, Catholic. "I am a girl football kicker." // Jaymin Coleman, 20, Jasper, Biracial Black & White, Male, Straight. "I am caring!"
Timothy Ash, 17, Jasper, White, Male, Gay, Mormon. "I am a very productive person."
Juana Sandoval, 18, Huntingburg, Latina, Female, Straight. "I am a person who loves color guard." // Emily Huddleston, 19, Jasper, White, Female, Straight. "I am a dreamer."
Karter Tarvin, 22, Jasper, White, Transgender Male, Straight, Agnostic. "I am Human."
Yuliana Leon, 12, Huntingburg, Biracial Latina & White, Female, Straight. "I am very unique."
Cole Taber, 17, Jasper, White, Male, Bisexual, Catholic. "I am very loyal and kind." // Taelor Reeves, 17, Otwell, White, Female, Straight. "I am selfless."
Jenny Doan, 17, Jasper, Asian, Female, Straight, Buddhist. "I am weird." // Yulim Oh, 17, Jasper, Asian, Female, Straight, Christian. "I am goofy."
Becca Schitter, 18, Jasper, White, Female, Straight. "I am loyal and proud." // Summer Beasley, 15, Chrisney, White, Female, Lesbian, Atheist. "I am a supporter and am not afraid to show it."
Huntter Fehribach, 17, Jasper, White, Male, Gay, Lutheran. "I am over the top and beautiful."
Macaila Wilkins, 15, Huntingburg, White, Transgender Male, Pansexual. "I am undeniably, powerfully myself."
Liseth Trejos, 16, Santa Claus, Latina, Female, Straight, Catholic. "I am smart."
Kylie Giesler, 17, Ferdinand, White, Female, Straight, Catholic. "I am hardworking."
Thomas Gilbert, 14, Jasper, White, Male, Straight, Catholic. "I am a human being." // Bailey Barrett, 21, Huntingburg, White, Female, Straight, Catholic. "I am me."
Mason Tomasino, 15, Jasper, Latino, Male, Straight, Christian. "I am a person who explores my home and takes pictures of my shadow."
Ka'Myra Jordon, 12, Huntingburg, Black, Female, Straight, Christian. "I am funny and crazy." // Ivan Flores, 18, Huntingburg, Latino, Male, Straight, Catholic. "I am blessed."